Mandelblit Caught in the Middle

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is a man caught in the middle of a furious conflict between those who are bent on the downfall of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and those – including the PM himself – who are struggling to fight them off.

The difficulty of his position is no secret, especially after he decided last week to take a strong public position against a bill that would give a sitting prime minister immunity from prosecution.

But on Sunday, the attorney general’s feelings, expressed to colleagues behind closed doors, were aired on an audio tape over Army Radio.

“I am under attack from all directions with asymmetric methods and with methods which are not part of the rules of the game of democracy,” he was heard saying.

“I cannot conduct myself as they do…on one hand, I am obligated by the laws of war, while on the other hand, the other side is not,” meaning that his antagonists on the Left and Right are smearing him, against which his official role prevents him from retaliating. Playing by the rules means, among other things, not leaking information about ongoing investigations, while both sides pummel him for supposed mishandling of cases.

Mandelblit has kept his silence under unusual strain for a long time. Protesters demanding he indict PM Netanyahu and his wife for a variety of crimes and misdemeanors have been demonstrating outside his Petach Tikva home on a weekly basis for nearly a year.

At the same time, PM Netanyahu and his supporters have been taking aim at the entire law enforcement establishment, most recently accusing the police of calculated leaks to the hostile Israeli media. Mandelblit did not endear himself any further to the prime minister’s camp by taking the side of the police on a proposal to bar them from making recommendations regarding prosecution at the close of an investigation.

The opposition rushed to Mandelblit’s side. Zionist Camp MK Revital Suade called “this is a plea of desperation from the attorney-general – the campaign of delegitimization is working.”

“In a systematic process in the name of governability, they are inflicting a mortal wound on the legal establishment and the strength of the rule of law in the state of Israel – and all of this for political survival,” she said.